Do You Really Need Social Media?

Authors seem to have mixed feelings about social media. Is it essential for success? Is it necessary at all?

Last month’s Carnival of the Indies is case-in-point. In a featured article, Frances Caballo debunks common social media misconceptions. She assumes that social media activity is an important aspect of any platform, so authors should try to improve the quality of their online interactions.

In this same issue, Yesenia Vargas of WriterMom offers a different viewpoint: “Too many authors focus on social media and growing their following there rather than focusing on the activities that would truly move their author business forward. Like writing the next book or running a limited time sale with stacked newsletters.” She writes to challenge a different misconception, “that social media is not for selling books or finding new readers.”

I’ve seen both these attitudes before, and both sides make compelling arguments. In the second edition of his book, Let’s Get Digital, David Gaughran discourages authors from spending too much time on social media because platform building is slow and time-consuming.

On the other hand, author and social media expert Kristin Lamb reminds us that while it’s true that social media doesn’t directly lead to sales, that was never the point. Social media isn’t a “magic formula” for success, but part of a long-term business strategy. Online engagement allows authors to grow communities of readers and fellow writers. Social media lets readers get to know authors as people, and if we like authors, we’re more likely to buy their books.

With all this conflicting advice, what’s a poor indie author to do?